The Human Mind: To Read, Or Not to Read

If you were offered the gift of reading the minds of others, would you take it?

Sometimes, I wish I could get into people’s minds. Like my dogs’, for example. (And yes, my dogs are people.) They can make the sweetest and funniest faces, and I just wonder, What are they thinking? Or my three-year-old son’s. He’s very outgoing and talkative and will usually tell you exactly what’s going through his head, but not always. When he stares into space or rambles about things I don’t understand, I wish I could see what he’s thinking. And I know as he gets older, there will be a million times that I wish to see inside his head.

There are also times when I am talking to someone and I just know that person is thinking something they’re not saying. I know you all have been there: You say something to a friend and they grow too quiet. Or they say one thing, but you can just tell that they are actually thinking the opposite. At those moments, I would love the ability to read their thoughts.

But would I want to hear them? I definitely wouldn’t want my thoughts to go public sometimes. Two reasons: A. I wouldn’t want everyone to know just how weird I really am, and B. As positive as I try to be, sometimes thoughts are uncontrollably terrible. Things can pop into your head that, if said out loud, could devastate another person. You can chase these thoughts out of your own head quickly, but if there was a person with the ability to read them, the damage would already be done. You just can’t help it when a friend gets a new haircut and by impulse you think, She really should have thought twice about that style. If my friend thinks to herself that the jeans I have on look terrible on me, do I want to know that? Sure, on one hand, you may want to know – if it’s something that helps you, it’s beneficial to hear it. But at the same time, wouldn’t it still hurt your feelings to know that your friend had a negative thought about you, no matter how small or insignificant it may have been?

In my upcoming young adult novel, The Visitors, one of the main characters has the ability read the minds of those around her. I decided to make this a gift that she can turn off or on as needed. (Does anyone remember that Mel Gibson movie What Women Want? The one about this man who is suddenly gifted with the ability to hear women’s thoughts? It’s been years since I saw it, but I remembered one particular scene when the guy is out on the street, surrounded by women, and their thoughts are just bombarding his mind. I figured that if a person could hear everyone’s thoughts at one time, it would no longer be a gift but an inconvenience.) Considering the gift in this light, the character has to tune into a person’s mind in order to hear his or her thoughts. But this brings up another issue when the character uses her gift to hear something she shouldn’t hear. She doesn’t mean to: she notices that her friend is in a particularly strange mood and just tunes into his thoughts innocently to see if everything is okay. What she learns about him has absolutely nothing to do with her, but she still intervenes, changing the course of his actions and the entire novel. Is this acceptable?

Consider the good possibilities of possessing such a gift. If you could read the mind of someone who was about to go rob a bank and could do something to stop it, you’re a hero. You could use your gift for the greater good of mankind. But, as I learned from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. How would you decide whose mind to read and whose to ignore? And some would argue that this would be playing with fate – what right do you have to go poking into people’s private thoughts? And then, of course, you would have to consider that a gift like this could fall into the wrong hands – someone who wouldn’t even attempt to use it to better the world, but to better himself.

With all things considered, would you accept this gift? I would love to hear your ideas on if and how you would use it if the opportunity presented itself to you. Thanks in advance for sharing!


10 thoughts on “The Human Mind: To Read, Or Not to Read

  1. If the ability to read any living creatures mind was offered to me as a gift, and I could turn it on and off, I would accept it. However, I would use it to communicate with animals, especially my own, and get an amazing job as an animal doctor, I assume I would be Doctor Dolittle. Interesting question though.


    • I am totally with you – reading my animals’ minds was the first thing I thought of! Especially my cat…dogs are somewhat predictable…but who can ever tell with a cat? I love the Doctor Doolittle idea. Thanks for reading!


  2. Oh Katy, So glad to hear I am not the only one who would like sometimes to see in a person’s mind. I am like you and would especially like to see in my dog’s mind. Their eyes are so expressive it just makes me wonder what they are thinking of. So, in answer to the question, I guess I would like the gift of seeing into other people’s mind, but only if the gift came with the ability to keep my mouth shut about what I saw. Now about people being able to see in my mind — would NOT want that.


    • I completely agree, Glenda! The whole “keeping my mouth shut about what I saw” thing would be the challenge. And what if it was something really important that needed to be told? It could get messy. And as far as people seeing inside my mind…Yikes. Haha Thanks for reading!


  3. No way! I think there would be way too many negatives and not enough positives. Like you mentioned, we all have very unkind thoughts that we would never actually say out loud, for good reason. When I say, “I’ve put on weight” and someone replies, “oh, you’re fine,” I don’t want to hear how they’re actually thinking, “yeah, no kidding, fatty!” 🙂 I would be mortified if someone could read my thoughts. My thoughts are just that: mine. They’re private; they’re personal; and sometimes, they may even be perverse haha. We all work through ideas and emotions and issues through our thoughts, and often we think things that we end up not believing or feeling differently about later. But if someone heard your every thought, how would you ever convince them that that’s not REALLY how you felt? And vice versa: if I heard someone’s nasty thought about me, how could I ever forget about that? I think that’s especially true being a teacher. I don’t want to know what the kids REALLY think about me lol.


    • Excellent points…especially about the whole “teacher” part! Can you imagine being in your classroom and hearing the thoughts of twenty-five high school students? Scary. And sometimes, I don’t need to read a kid’s thoughts to know exactly what he thinks about me as I’m handing him a detention. 🙂 It would definitely be hard to forgive people after you heard their negative thoughts about you. Thanks for sharing!


  4. I would not like to be able to read minds or have anyone read mine. I think your thoughts are
    private and they should be.


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